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Chapter Two

existing system overview


State Capitol and four axial streets, following the compass

points, which divided the city into four quadrants or

wards. The heart of each ward was a public square (Moore,

Nash, Caswell, and Burke). Four lots were left open at

the corners of the rectangular plan for “future parks, for

children, flowers, trees and fountains.” Of the original city

plan, only one-half of the original 400 acres was allocated

for development, and nearly 40 acres or 20% of the this

developed land was reserved as open space.

The existing trees were spared on the original five

squares. Perhaps a decision of necessity, it nevertheless

made a powerful statement, which was to become the

foundation of Raleigh’s heritage of sensitivity to open

space preservation.

The Christmas Plan, parks and all, served Raleigh well

for nearly 50 years before the city began to grapple with

new growth brought by railway service in 1840. The

city pushed beyond the original boundaries during this

decade and development, and convenience claimed two of

the original squares. Caswell Square became the site for a

school for the deaf, and Burke Square became the grounds

of a new Governor’s Mansion.

The vision for parkland never vanished; however, in the

1860’s it resurfaced. Oakwood was designed as a Park

Cemetery, having a dual function of a memorial park for

the deceased and strolling and carriage grounds for the

living. This cemetery became Raleigh’s first experiment

with a multi-use, privately funded recreational and open

space facility.

The Victorian Era touched Raleigh in both mood and

fashion. The theory of “green relief ” from urban chaos

(hardly applicable by comparison to northeastern cities),

promulgated by Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of

Central Park in New York and the Boston parks system,

encouraged citizens to donate land and finance the

development of pleasure grounds or natural retreats.

Richard Stanhope Pullen responded with a gift of 69 acres

in 1887 for an accessible pastoral retreat – a major public

park. At the time the land was on the outskirts of the

City and meant to be used as a get-away from bustling

Victorian life in the downtown.

At the turn-of-the-century nationwide influences stamped

Raleigh’s budding park enthusiasm, and its urban form,

with visionary ideas. The Columbian Exposition of 1893

inspired the nation with the crusade that cities can be

“beautiful and noble manifestations of civilization.”

The aesthetic renaissance found specific expression in

the landscaped boulevards of Glenwood and New Bern

Avenues. Subtly, a shift in park philosophy simultaneously

gained popularity. “Reform Parks” beckoned the entire

citizenry to recreational opportunities, not solely pastoral

retreats, and the notion of a system of parks, rather than

individual parks, began to gain favor.

Parks also became an amenity of fine residential

neighborhoods developed for an emerging middle class

whose homes were linked to downtown by trolley service.

The transportation service carried citizens to “street

railway” owned parks at the edge of town. Bloomsbury

Park, near Lassiter Mill, Brookside Park north of

Oakwood, and Pullen Park fit this category of open space.

The new residential subdivision called Cameron Park set

a model tone by arranging streets around natural drainage

ways, leaving the creeks as neighborhood open space.

Christmas’s 1792 plan for Raleigh which included five public squares

centered in a grid of streets.